XI. Introducing Dragons
In the center of the school, a large open rotunda, taller than the tallest dragons that stood under the polished stone cupola, a soft rain that fell from the mouth of extinct volcano, guided off the roof and channeled to giant cisterns the shape of beer tankards sold in pubs throughout the world.
The students stood in a circle around the instructors and professors. Each professor standing on a level of a circular stage, looking outwards from the center, appearing like decorations on a cake.
Several of the professors were missing Jona noted. Looking around, all the dragon professors were missing. Then the voice of the professor that Jona had met a few weeks earlier, Melian Jewell began to speak from the middle of the circle. Standing on a platform higher than the rest, she addressed the newest students. Several of the older students had stopped and watched.
“Students, your journey begins here, learning what you have before, you must put behind you. You have all been appointed, have applied or been chosen. From now on your home is this university, here you will learn to go past the legends and mythology, to know the relationship between earth and sky, of water and air, you will know that the family that has raised you is larger and more complex than anything you have ever imagine. Here you will learn how to teach a dragon the most basic parts of survival, how to hide.” She took a breath. “here you will learn how to mentor and be mentored by Dragon Masters.”
At the last, a dozen dragon professors soared down from niches in the sides of the neck of the volcano and landed, encircling the human and elf teachers facing the students with their wings outstretched and tip to tip, the dragons of all sizes looked down on the screaming students. Keva stood behind Jona and buried her face in his back.
“These are your mentors!” Her voice boomed around the school center, “You will know them all in time. Ice, fire, air, water, earth. I bid you all, welcome to Dragon Master University of Higher Learning.”
“Who are the Dragon Masters? Us or them?” A dark-eyed girl whose eyes seemed as big as saucers as she looked up at a dragon that stood three times her height.
“Everyone who graduates here is a master. Some are Dragons, some are elves, some are humans. All are masters and will guide the survival of all the races.” A familiar and beautiful voice sounded behind Jona.
Kolo was smiling as she was handing out room assignments.
“Your bags are already being moved as we speak. Jona you are in Garnet Dorms, your first year mentor has been a special request by our own Professor Vale. You will meet him later at the dorm common room. You will find the room number assignments from him.”
Kolo reached up and tickled sprite under the wings while it clicked happily at the touch of the female dragon.
Trying to think of something to say, Jona flogged his brain.
Finally, it seemed like weeks he stood there asked Kolo “Did you do something to your hair? It looks nice.”
Kolo laughed and walked away.
“Silly boy, dragons don’t have hair, these are feathers and no, nothing has changed. You will have to try better than that.”
Jona turned away and cursed himself.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid. Next time think of something intelligent…”
Walking along the path to the Garnet House, Jona approached the dragon that he had met weeks before, the old professor.
“Do you know where I might find Professor Vale?” Jona inquired, “I need to meet him for a room assignment.”
The dragon looked at Jona and chuckled, “Yes, I know where Professor Vale is, he is very close by.” The dragon leaned close “He is me, I am Professor Vale.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I did not remember your name. I’m told to report to you for a room assignment in the Garnet house?”
“New student, go through the door, turn right, go down the stairs, room fifty-six, it has your name on it.” the Professor nodded without even looking, turning to an older student “Sixth floor, room nineteen. You know the drill, you have a good room this year, your mentor will have easy access to you for early training. Just a warning: Do not fall off.”
The student left and Jona followed the other boy, as they entered the Garnet House, a Purple Dragon statue stood out front. Orange eyes and wings extended, it looked much like the one that gave him a ride to the school the first time.
Reading the plaque at the base of the statue, “Skittles the seeker” on the surface of the plaque, the rest of the writing was in a language he could not understand.
“Jona!” It was Rameses, “You are in Garnet? that is a good house to start in. They follow the lead of Skittles, the best student they have ever had. He was a great seeker of knowledge about humans and dragons.”
“Oh! Thanks! I could not read it past the name.” Jona said
“There will be a test later. ” Rameses said as he left “Gotta go, I have to move into my room, see ya!”
“Bye!” Jona walked in and turned right, walking down a circular-staircase covered with a luxurious a maroon carpet. Down he went, light for the stairs came from a tube of light that hung from the ceiling and down the core of the circular stairway. At the bottom of the stairs, Jona walked along the wide polished floor of snowflake obsidian while Jona shuffled with dozens of other students who read the gold plates on all the doors.
Finally room fifty-eight, Jona Samhain, Spirat Oillín, Kola Dragoneye, Sam Sam were the names engraved in the gold plate.
Walking into the darkened room, Jona paused for a few minutes until it was light enough to see.
“Touch the wall to get some illumination.” A voice from the darkness sounded, “But be gentle.”
Jona touched the wall and the ceiling began to glow.
“Sun tubes.” A man-sized dragon sat on a chair that looked like polished stone. “They store and use the light down here. We are the bottom of the pile.”
“I’m Jona”, he said. Looking at the blue tiger-striped dragon reclining on the seat. “It’s my first day.”
“I’m Sam, It is my second year, but I bombed badly last year so I have a do-over. Never did turn in my work on time after I got assignments. I did it, but kept forgetting it.” Sam looked down and sighed. “My Gram about gave birth to a polar bear when she got the report. Now I am back down here.”
“It is not bad down here. We’ll be protected from bad weather.” Jona tried to look at the bright side.
“Hardly, summer is too hot down here, spring it is humid, best times are now and winter.” Sam said and added, “Have you got your class assignments yet?”
“No, I just got here.” Jona was looking into separate rooms as Sam watched him move around.
“You better find your home-room teacher and get the schedule. Some instructors are evil. There is one elven chap that does Dragon Lore– you do not want to get him on your trail. His sister is a Bowheart and he really hates anyone who fails to measure up to her.”
“Bowheart?” Jona asked. “What is a Bowheart?”
“You are new at this! You need to get studying history and read last year’s story.” Sam said. “But no matter, you need to get your schedule, I will help you along. But you have to get the studies down. This place can be savage with no one to have your back. That is why they roomed us together.”
“Where would I find the home-room teacher?” Jona asked.
“Office is main floor, you will have to look hard for your name. They try to write them in your native language for the fresh faces that come every year. Then switch to the common language that we all talk, but you have that down already. You are one of the few humans I know that already have skills in understanding of common language of all the students” Sam smiled. “It’s good to have that advantage.”
‟Let’s go get your stuff in your room or you will get your bed taken.” Sam said, jumping up.
Running up the stairs after putting his clothes away, he donned his leather vest that had silver rivets but no rosettes like some of the other older students. Even Sam had an iron rosette at each leather joint of his vest.
“What do the rosettes on your vest mean?” Jona asked Sam as they climbed the stairs. “I have seen some that are gold, some are silver, some look rusty or even made of wood.”
“Classes they have passed.” Sam grinned, “I did the triathlon ride last year. So I got an iron rosette. You will get them as you get along in your schooling. There are so many I don’t know what they all are made of or what they are for. There is gold, silver, copper, bronze, iron, emerald, diamond and other gem types, many of silk, some of a white marble, others of black. Just depends on what you do.”
“Wow, well, let’s see what classes I have. Then I will try to get some on my rivets.” Jona laughed.
‟Good luck, first year. You might also get used to being called an egg or hatchling.” Sam nodded The scales of his head glistened in the light, like the polished walls of the school.
”You won’t get respect this year, no matter what you do.” Sam snorted a secretive laugh. ‟Just so you know.”